Photos by Jamie Lee Curtis Taete
The E3 video game expo is a yearly celebration of the multi-billion dollar gaming industry. It’s also super fucking boring. As the largest video game trade expo in the world, it’s both overly stimulating and stultifyingly corporate. Imagine taking a walk down the Las Vegas strip, with all the lights, sounds and annoying carnival barkers yelling at you, then accidentally stumbling into a TED talk. Yeah, that sounds shitty to me too.
While hanging around there in spite of myself, I heard about a Christian gaming organisation called Gamechurch with a booth on the ass end of the convention center that was supposedly giving away free beer to anyone desperate enough to talk to them. I figured my E3 had been saved. Could it have been a sign from God himself that I should get a taste of the gospel and also get drunk on cheap keg beer?
To my surprise, there was no beer left when I arrived. I suppose everyone else at E3 had the same idea, but much earlier in the day. All that was left for me to do was read their material until more beer showed up.
I fingered through their pamphlet titled “Jesus, for the Win!” long enough to realise that this whole operation was serious. A condensed version of the Book of John was interspersed with essays justifying mixing the New Testament with the latest Call of Duty game. Those just seem naturally compatible, right?
They also had a table of free Gamechurch branded merchandise. Anyone could walk up and grab the standard expo swag (stickers, pins. etc.), but to get the primo freebies like shirts and votive candles, you had to join their mailing list.
I signed up so I could get a candle. Joke's on them though, as I actually have a spam filter for the word “Jesus”.
I had hoped to learn a bit more about Gamechurch in an analog fashion, so I spoke to Mikee Bridges, fedora enthusiast and the founder and owner of Gamechurch (and also xxxchurch.com, an anti-porn site designed to look like a porn site, which is a pretty clever trick at 3AM when I have my pants down), who assured me prior to our interview there was, in fact, no more beer coming.
VICE: How did you get into Christian gaming?
Mikee Bridges: I've been a Christian all my life and I don’t like American, Western Christianity. I don’t like the way we’ve portrayed Jesus, which is surrounded by guilt, shame and judgment. Nowhere in (the Bible) does it say any of that stuff. I went from being a musician to being a promoter, and because of promoting, I had music venues, and in these music venues, I’d have a café or a lounge. I’d put some computers in there, and kids started gaming. It was a lot more fun to hang out with the kids who were gaming than the musicians, because the musicians were babies. So I stopped doing music, and I started doing gaming. We run a 7,000-square-foot gaming facility in Ventura, about an hour from here. All we do is game, all day, all night. Gamechurch.com is an extension of that.
How can you combine gaming, which is often this overly aggressive, misogynist-laden entertainment medium, with your message of peace and love?
We don’t. I’m not the morality police. What you play at home is never going to affect me. We [as Christians] so badly want something to judge. They did it with music, with movies, with books, now with video games. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like my brothers and sisters and what they’re doing. I think it comes down to two things: good parenting and self-discipline. If you’re an alcoholic and you don’t want to be around beer, don’t go to a bar. Don’t go to that rated R movie if you can’t handle it, but I’m going to go and I’ll tell you about it. I’m not shaken by violence, sexuality, gore. Nothing really scares me. I’ve been around the block a few times.
Do you think gaming causes people to behave differently in the way that socially conservative interest groups claim? You’ve dealt with sex addiction with your other site, xxxchurch.com, and you say that porn changes people. Do violent, sexually gratifying games change people the same way you say porn does?
Everything affects us. Walking down the street affects me. When I see a restaurant, it affects me. I really think it comes down to self-discipline, self-control and good parenting. I’m sad at the video game industry, because we are over-sexualising women and there is a problem there. I think it’s getting addressed now, which is cool, but unfortunately, I’m not the police. So, for me personally, I look at it and I would step in and say, “Yes, we’re oversexualising stuff.” Not every woman in video games needs to have tits and ass. For you, I don’t know you. I don’t know you to judge what’s OK for you.
Why do you think Christians are historically known for being so judgmental about personal choices?
Two hundred to 300 years ago, we became a feared, fearful group. I’m going to find whatever it is that makes you feel dirty, so that you come crawling to “the Lord”, and it was all fear-based, and it sucks, and it’s not true. It has nothing to do with the gospel I know of. It’s a bummer.
If Jesus was at E3 or Comic-Con, would he cosplay as himself or as another character?
Himself. Absolutely, himself. What I want to do is throw a party, and have someone cosplay as Jesus and have him be the DJ. Can you imagine an open bar, a tiny little club that fits 200-300 people – Jesus gets up to the tables and everyone is freaking. That’s what he would be like. He was famous. He was a rock star.
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